A voice in the wilderness

Posted Feb 22, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Note to readers: During Lent Resurrection joins over 140 other congregations in Kansas City and others in Hong Kong and Ghana in reading the entire gospel of Mark. This week we focus on the first 13 verses of Mark, supplemented by the ways Matthew and Luke told parts of the same story.

To watch a video that covers all of this week’s Mark passage, click here.

Mark 1:1-8

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2 happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
3 a voice shouting in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.” [Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; Exodus 23:20]

4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Reflection Questions

Most Bible scholars agree that Mark is “probably the earliest written Gospel, and it brings an urgent message about God’s coming kingdom.”* One reason Mark is the shortest of the four gospels is that he started, so to speak, in “the middle of the story,” with the adult John the Baptist’s wilderness ministry. John patterned his work after Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3, pointing people someone greater who was coming after him.

  • Many of us just brush over Mark’s first verse—“good news,” “Jesus,” blah blah. If we do, we miss a huge idea. “The Greek word is euangelion, and means both ‘good news’ and ‘proclamation’…. If this were a play, the script would call for trumpets. ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.’ It is the greatest announcement in the world!”** And Mark’s gospel went into a world where relatively few people knew the story of Jesus. How does the boldness of Mark’s first words strike you?
  • John the Baptist (or Baptizer) preached with confidence, but not with self-importance. In his first-century world, it was often a slave’s job to bend down and loosen the fastenings of his owner’s footwear. John said he wasn’t worthy to do even that for the redeemer for whom he was preparing the way. How does John’s example point a way for you to base your confidence in Jesus, not yourself?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, as I begin this Lenten journey listening to Mark tell your story, I open my heart and mind to learn (or learn again) about the way you changed our world for the better forever. Amen.


* Suzanne Watts Henderson, introduction to Mark 6:50 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 65 NT.

** John Killinger, His Power in You (The Devotional Commentary: Mark). Waco, TX: Word Books, 1978, p. 3.

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Ashley Morgan Kirk

Ashley Morgan Kirk

Ashley is a Congregational Care Pastor at Resurrection Leawood. After seven years of higher ed in religion, she finally understands that she can't figure out God (no matter how hard she tries). She’s leaning into the challenge to move from a thinking-based faith to loving God with both her head and heart.

It’s mid February in a new year that sometimes feels way too much like the previous one. By this point in a usual year, many of us are beating ourselves up for the resolutions we made and haven’t kept. (By the way, if there were any criteria for a “pass,” the last two have far surpassed it.)

Our culture’s hype around New Year’s has always fascinated me. Mostly because it reminds me so much of what is called the “good news” for us in Jesus. I know, I know. It might be cheesy, but stay with me. Annually we lift up and celebrate the gift of a clean slate, a new start, a chance to finally change. It is so clear to me that we have a deep desire to be made new.

With Jesus, being made new is possible every…single…day. Every day is like a mini New Year’s Day! Every day is a chance to, as Ezekiel 36:25-27 says, “…be cleansed of all your pollution. I [God] will cleanse you of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws.” A new heart. A new spirit. A heart full of life, rather than a dull heart of stone. God’s spirit in us so that we can live by God’s words of life.

It’s bold news, then, that Mark calls Jesus “good news” in the very first verse of the very first chapter of his gospel account. If we compare Mark’s announcement to the ball drop on New Year’s, I can easily picture the fanfare that should accompany such a good thing! Do you think they still have those confetti poppers in the clearance aisle? It’s not the “right” way to start Lent, but it would certainly be a memorable way! In this season, may we all prepare the way for Jesus to make a beeline to the depths of our hearts and spirits in order to be made new. And may we open ourselves to the good news that is Jesus more and more every…single…day. “…they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins (Mark 1:4).”

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